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Brush Box and Lid

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Artifact Description

The excavation of the SS Republic yielded an assortment of toilet wares, the necessities of a bygone era lacking the conveniences of indoor plumbing. The collection includes seven tooth brush containers with matching lids, referred to in period documents as "brush boxes." All made of sturdy, white ironstone china, at least three of the sets exhibit the remains of a now faded gold trim decoration. This same pattern is repeated on a number of other toilet ware items recovered from the wreck site. The other examples include wash basins and a water pitcher, a slop pot and lid, as well chamber pots, foot baths and soap dishes. These decorative toilet wares were clearly intended as matching sets. While items such as these were essential aboard vessels of the day, the enormous quantity of ironstone china recovered from the site was very likely shipped as cargo.

A heavy, thick-bodied, utilitarian ceramic ware, white ironstone china, also referred to as English porcelain, stone china, and white granite, was first introduced by Staffordshire potters in the early 19th century as an alternative to white porcelain; yet without the cost of these finer wares and with the added advantage of greater strength and durability. The Staffordshire district in particular, offered an abundance of clay and proximity to the seaports of Liverpool, Bristol, London and Hull to ship finished wares.

By the early 1840s, America received its frist ironstone imports which were soon mass produced for the U.S. market. English potters had discovered that the inhabitants of the "colonies" greatly preferred this unfussy, plain and durable china to more exotic wares. It was an immediate success and public demand soared. Although clay was plentiful in areas of the United States, most dinner and toilet wares, including chamber pots were imported until the late 19th century. American clay was reserved for making bricks, tiles and other practical utensils such as crocks and jugs.


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